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BrewDog claims to have made a 55% ABV "beer" which they call The End of History. They have other high ABV "beers:" Tactical Nuclear Penguin is 32% ABV and Sink the Bismark! is 41% ABV.

From what I understand, each of these beers starts with a normal recipe for a high ABV (imperial) beer, but this can only get you so far. The high ABV is obtained by freezing the beer, scraping off the ice, and repeating. The result is a high alcohol content liquid.

Usually, I would call beer that has been processed in this way "ice beer," but I'm not sure the label applies at this extreme.

My question: Is The End of History beer?

(Note: This should be considered separately from the question "Is beer the end of history?")

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The comments below generate some good discussion. Can someone provide our current working definition of beer? That should be a good place to start answering my question. –  Bill Dec 3 '10 at 0:59
    
Found on the Brewers Association Website: Malt beverage containing 0.5% or more alcohol by volume possessing the characteristics generally attributed to and conforming to the trade understanding of “beer” –  Casey Dec 3 '10 at 19:53
    
Thanks Casey. Some comments on that definition: –  Bill Dec 3 '10 at 20:56
    
1) It has a lower limit requirement for ABV, but no upper limit requirement, and 2) it basically says "beer is whatever we collectively have consensus to call beer." The mathematician side of me cringes as the imprecision of the definition, but I understand it needs to be able to accommodate the possibility of new creations becoming beer. –  Bill Dec 3 '10 at 20:58
    
Apparently the only thing you can do with beer that will make it not beer is drink it. ;> –  dthorpe Dec 4 '10 at 4:51
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7 Answers

This is actually a popular argument. Consensus is that fractional freezing still makes it a beer. Bud Ice, Miller Icehouse, and Natural Ice are all examples of ice beers, made the same way, and sold as beers.

There's no standard definition of beer that limits the strength, so I see no reason why it's not beer.

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I think something like Aventius Eisbock would probably make a better argument toward it still being beer. :) –  baka Dec 3 '10 at 15:06
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My question about it being beer had less to do with the ABV than with the amount of processing it has undergone. By way of analogy, consider a tree. There are no restrictions in the definition of a tree that limit the height, number of branches, color and shape of leaves, etc. But when a tree is processed in some way (chopped down and turned it into a pile of 2x4s, falls and rots away, burns in a forest fire, etc.) we no longer call it a tree. –  Bill Dec 3 '10 at 17:53
    
Right...I was assuming you were questioning it based on the process of fractional freezing, but if lower-strength ice beers and eisbocks are beer, then you can't eliminate it by process alone. What it really comes down to is that there's no true, universal definition of "beer." –  Brandon Dec 3 '10 at 18:00
    
From what I understand of eisbocks, and I may be wrong about this, the beer is frozen, and then thawed. The ice that forms is never removed, but instead is reconstituted with the beer. This is different from what the BrewDog guys were doing. They actually remove the ice from the beer. I was originally asking about the process of freezing and scraping, but now I'm curious about all of the things we can do to beer and still be able to call it beer. –  Bill Dec 3 '10 at 22:54
    
No, the ice is removed when you're making an Eisbock. –  baka Dec 4 '10 at 13:35
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BJCP guidelines are not the end-all, be-all. Basically, they're good for judging beer at comps and that's about it. I definitely would consider your examples to be beer if they started out as a fermented grain beverage. Whether or not I'd want to drink one is an entirely different matter! AFAIK, Bud Ice and the like are not freeze concentrated...they are lowered to freezing temps for filtering purposes, but I don't believe any water is intentionally removed.

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Bud Ice undergoes fractional freezing: anheuser-busch.com/brandPages/budIce.html –  Brandon Dec 3 '10 at 0:46
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Thanks for the link, but I didn't see anything to indicate that water is removed to increase the alcohol %. –  Denny Conn Dec 3 '10 at 0:52
    
Actually, I believe that all filtered beer must be filtered at near freezing temperatures. They're just marketing something that is done for all filtered beer as unique when it's not because they don't really have anything else to market about it. –  criggs Dec 3 '10 at 4:30
    
Oh, you mean it's triple-hops brewed? Heh, no, but they actually do remove ice from the beer, but then they have to add some water back to keep it within .5% of the original strength. So yes, it is slightly more concentrated. –  Brandon Dec 3 '10 at 22:02
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I would say it is still beer. Though quite an extreme example.

Mirriam-Webster defines beer as "an alcoholic beverage usually made from malted cereal grain (as barley), flavored with hops, and brewed by slow fermentation."

End of History fulfills this. It is my understanding that the beer is the highest ABV achieved by natural yeast fermentation. They created some sort of resilient yeast strain that can survive in such ridiculously high alcohol content.

So yes it is beer.

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Gruit is considered beer, but doesn't satisfy the M-W definition you quote since it is not flavored with hops. –  Bill Dec 3 '10 at 22:21
    
Mead is considered beer too even though its basically honey and yeast. I was just making an example. I think the beer in question has hops though. –  D J Dec 3 '10 at 22:27
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I feel that it would be whiskey at this point. Regardless of the method, it has been distilled. If they kept going at it with the distillation and got up to 90%, would it still be beer then? As far as ingredients, there have been alternative bittering agents to hops historically, and I've enjoyed a 100% wheat beer as well. Process is what defines beer - Mashing malted grains, and fermenting them. Distillation doesn't doesn't come into play with that. You'd think Everclear would hype up that they've made a 180 proof unhopped beer.

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Ice-Distilled Malt Beverage?

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I don't believe it should be considered a beer, but this opens the window of 'where do we draw the line?'. At what percentage would we switch from beer to something else? If barley wines have there own title, "beers" like this definitely should have a different name. But under the BJCP guidlines for a barley wine, many Imperial or high gravity beers could fit in with the barley wines, only we don't consider them as such. I'm all for fun and experimentation, but I think that these beverages should be considered something other than beer, they are higher in alcohol content than some hard alcohol (liquor) beverages. Great question though.

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IMO it's still beer. However, I don't think distilled beer but shouldn't be considered in the same category as only yeast fermented for ABV bragging rights.

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